Today’s grads face both a headwind and tailwind


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oday’s grads face one of the most uncertain times in history.

I call it a merging of two seemingly mutually-exclusive ideas — they have a tail wind behind them PLUS a head wind facing them.

The tail wind is the fact that there just are not enough workers for the jobs that are out there. If you have skills, a good resume showing success at previous jobs, and a good attitude, your future should look very, very bright.  One of my mottoes is that someone is looking as hard for you as you are looking for them — you just have to knock on enough doors.

The head wind is the fact that the world is changing.  With the spending of trillions of dollars on new programs, there will be a tax bill to pay some day. It will fall to these young people.  Here in Wyoming, we are suffering because fossil fuels have fallen out of favor. That may force some young people to leave the state.

This is about what grads should be thinking about looking ahead at their future life. For years at this time, I have written a column called my “message to graduates.” 

To you grads, your youth is your greatest asset.  You sit there at your graduation as an “unformed human being.”  Your whole world is out there ahead of you.

I recall my high school graduation.  The overriding thought that ran through my head was, “What is going to happen to me?” 

Although scary, this is the most exciting time to be alive. Approach these times with optimism and love for your fellow human being and you should turn out just fine.

A favorite quote: “The problem with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.”  How true.

So, to you new grads, what can you do about it?  How can you make a good future for yourself in the face of such uncertainty?

As an old guy, I can stress your number-one advantage in coping with all this is your anticipated long life span.  However this all turns out, if you work hard and pay attention, it can be argued you will be a better person because of all these uncertain times you will live through.

Responsibility and good character do not come from an easy life.  They come from overcoming adversity and surviving tests that are unpleasant.  A definition of maturity is where a person ends up after dealing with a series of problems and solving them. You do not mature by running away from or hiding from your problems. Or having someone else solve your problems.

I believe it was free enterprise, capitalism and rugged individualism that made this country great. I hope you grads can grasp these concepts and realize how they can make a big impact on how you will be able to survive these difficult times.

My parents and grandparents used words like “gumption” to describe someone who worked extra hard to try to get ahead.  What your generation of graduating seniors needs, to cope with what’s ahead, is gumption.

Now here are five secrets about what you should do to get ahead:

• Although working hard is a virtue, working “smart” is genius. 

• Education is the key, but I am not talking about advanced degrees here.  I am talking about identifying a field you would like to work in and then learning everything you can about it. Best way to do this is talking with people in the field.  Or volunteering to work in the fringe parts of that industry.  Scanning the Internet for everything you can find out about trends in that field helps, too.  You can never learn enough.

• It is not who you know or what you know that counts in getting a good career going.  It is who you know AND what you know that will make all the difference. Locate and cultivate mentors.

• Responsibility, honesty, and ethics are critical.  Many in your generation are assumed to be lazy and not loyal.  If you are loyal to those whom you work with and for, you will be stunned by how far that will get you in your career.

• Timing is the single most important thing in getting ahead.  You must stay on top of trends and always, always check which way the economic winds are blowing.  You must be a man or woman of action.  Jump when you need to, but look before you leap.

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